MAPLE PARK – West Aurora rolled to its fifth straight Kane County girls track and field meet title Friday.
Those athletes who weren’t Blackhawks hardly viewed the chilly night as a competition for second place.
While that battle still proved pretty riveting – host Kaneland edged St. Charles East, 92-91, behind West Aurora’s team score of 137 – the real onus rests on the season’s stretch run.
Sectionals come in two weeks. A week after that brings the three-class IHSA state meet at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Stadium in Charleston.
“Now it’s really time to focus,” Geneva distance runner Brooke Nusser said. “Now is the time to come out and really push ourselves because it’s almost over.”
Kaneland senior Lauren Zick sensed the urgency and seized it, winning the 100 meters in 12.81 seconds and the 200 in 25.95.
“It definitely means a lot, especially because it’s my senior night, too. The last time I get to run here at Peterson Field,” Zick said. “It’s definitely a lot more special than it would normally be, so I’m really, really happy, and I’m really proud of myself that I pushed through this season and definitely have been running with better times than I have all four years.”
A St. John’s softball recruit, Zick also placed second in the long jump to friend and Kane County XPlosion teammate Emma Spagnola of West Aurora. Zick ran with the Knights’ runner-up 4x100 relay, as well.
For East, conquering a game of musical relays added up to a solid finish. Coach Tim Wolf said 26 athletes missed practice time this week because of illness, a struggle compounded on a spate of recent injuries.
The Saints won each relay but the 4x800 – that belonged to Batavia – and still see things trending upward. Three returners from last season’s 3A champion 4x400 – Allison Chmelik, Elizabeth Chmelik and Jordan Shead – joined freshman fill-in Kathleen Strohaker to close the meet with a winning time of 4:00.41.
“We finished strong with the 4x4, so ended on a good note,” said Shead, a Notre-Dame bound senior.
“We’ll work out all the little bugs and stuff and be good to go.”
Rosary fielded less than a full team, as Friday also was the school’s prom.
Referring to the Royals’ singlets, coach Vic Mead smiled and said, “I tried to tell the girls that this was your prom dress.”
No such luck.
At night’s end, the Blackhawks mugged for photos as if together at a dance, but the Saints felt equal camaraderie despite a missing trophy.
Elizabeth Chmelik was competing in just her second meet of the season.
“Yeah, it’s feeling much better,” Chmelik said of her ailing hip. “I’m feeling strong.”
Chmelik joined her twin sister along with Kim Abels and Keeley Flanigan in the Saints’ winning 4x200. A sophomore with a background in dance and drill team competitions, Flanigan admitted she could get used to this track stuff.
“Not bad at all,” she said.
The Saints fell short in what Wolf worked to bill as the top competition of the night. Collaborating with Aurora Central Catholic counterpart Troy Kerber, who coached Wolf in the late 1990s, Wolf touted Shead and ACC sophomore Karina Liz in a likely duel in the 800.
Liz, among the state favorites in the event in 2A, broke the meet record she established last season with an effort of 2:14.69. Shead led after the first lap before a calculating Liz overtook her with around 200 meters to go.
“Personally, for me, I feel like she kicked really early, “ said Liz, who also placed second in the 400. “So then, I was going to follow her, but then I knew that I wouldn’t have anything left, so I just stayed back. She did really well, though.”
Shead (2:22.58) placed third, about six seconds behind teammate Torree Scull, whose emergence in the 800 on top of her distance reputation gives Wolf some options.
“The possibilities are endless for us,” Wolf said. “We’ve got to get everybody healthy, get the sicknesses over with, the injuries.”
Kaneland hosted its second meet of at least 16 teams in six days. The boys program won Saturday’s Peterson Prep Invitational handily, and also will host the Northern Illinois Big 12 meet later this month.
On Friday, the girls were hardly pushovers, as coach Doug Ecker’s group worked through some absences of their own.
“It’s definitely awesome that the girls who don’t normally run in our normal relays, they’ve stepped up and done their part, too,” Zick said.
All in the name of the state series.
KANE COUNTY GIRLS TRACK & FIELD MEET
1. West Aurora 137
2. Kaneland 92
3. St. Charles East 91
4. Geneva 81.67
5. Aurora Christian 61.5
6. Batavia 47.5
7. Rosary 43
8. St. Charles North 40
9. Burlington Central 32
10. Streamwood 27
11. Aurora C. Catholic 18
12. Dundee-Crown 13.33
13. South Elgin 10
14. East Aurora 8
(Elgin and Larkin also competed)
Chronicle-area event winners
Batavia (Dakota Roman, Miranda Rea, Jenny Muehlbauer, Hannah Ullberg), 9:40.56
St. Charles East (Kim Abels, Jordan Shead, Casey McNichols, Allison Chmelik), 50.25
Lauren Zick, Kaneland, 12.81
Karina Liz, Aurora Central Catholic, 2:14.69
St. Charles East (Kim Abels, Keeley Flanigan, Elizabeth Chmelik, Allison Chmelik), 1:47.43
Foster Ignoffo, Geneva, 58.58
Kathryn Adelman, Geneva, 5:20.84
Lauren Zick, Kaneland, 25.95
St. Charles East (Kathleen Strohaker, Allison Chmelik, Elizabeth Chmelik, Jordan Shead), 4:00.41
Allison Chmelik, St. Charles East, 36 feet, 0 inches
Peyton Wade, A. Christian, 5-4